Faith – A View from the Mountain

The Mountain

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Monument in Washington, DC in
honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Recently, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech in Washington, DC, was featured in the news. For my purposes, I will use his last speech, from April 3, 1968:

"I've been to the mountaintop. ... I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land."

He was using the image of Moses on Mt. Nebo: Dt 32:48-51 and 34:1-5

The Lord said to Moses, "Go up on Mount Nebo... and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites as their possession. ... Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, ... and the Lord showed him all the land—Gilead, and as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, the circuit of the Jordan with the lowlands at Jericho, city of palms, and as far as Zoar. The Lord then said to him, "This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that I would give to their descendants.”

Read more: Faith – A View from the Mountain

Marian Devotion With a Future

"Lord, teach us to pray..."

When I was just a child, I was taught my very first prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” As far as I was concerned, this was my prayer. As I recited it each night on my knees, it gave me comfort that I was speaking to God, way up there in heaven.

Untitled-1In the first grade, as I began to learn different formal prayers, the language itself was difficult. Either I couldn't understand those big words or I simply could not pronounce them. This seems to be a common problem for many children.

I remember well an incident which occurred while I served as a priest in the La Salette parish in Phoenicia, New York. One Saturday morning, I visited the first grade religious education class. The teacher was anxious to have me hear the children reciting their prayers. To my amusement, the class proceeded to pray the Lord's Prayer for me. I listened carefully as one little boy near me prayed, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy King Kong's dumb, thy will be done..." I kept my composure and after they concluded, I told the class that they were doing fine but, perhaps, needed a little more practice. As I walked away the saying came to mind: "Out of the mouths of babes come gems!"

In my own childhood prayers, I was certainly not above reproach. For a short time, I was reciting the Hail Mary and including "Blessed art thou among swimmin'..." No matter what our misunderstandings or faltering beginnings, it was most beneficial for us to begin the habit of formal prayer in our early years.

"Say at least an Our Father and a Hail Mary..."

Read more: Marian Devotion With a Future

So Strong, So Heavy

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German La Salette holy card
“(The arm of my Son) is so strong, so heavy, I can no longer hold it back.”

No one can speak or write about La Salette without speaking about the wrath of God and punishment for sins. The message of Our Lady is incomplete without it. In Catholic circles fire and brimstone have gone out of style for sermons and homilies. But to cross these passages out of a comment on the LA Salette discourse would be dishonest and misleading.

Correction is Essential to Our Dreams

We know that sin is an offense against God. We also know that sin is offense and injury to the human person. One cannot offend God without injuring oneself as well as others. The injury is not always nor immediately visible but neither is cancer. We all know that life and love are difficult, even with the help of discipline. Without it, they are impossible. We all know that dreams are necessary and that they are unattainable without help. Unappealing as it can be, distasteful as it is, correction by God for erring ways is essential to our dreams.

In the end, we would not love a sentimental, wimpy, overly permissive God who would allow us all our ways and all our whims. We would then be forever imprisoned in mediocrity, unable to go beyond today's goodness to tomorrow's excellence and perfection, forever prevented from coming to any fulfillment and within sight of a dream. In fact, we could look upon correction by God as an act of kindness and mercy and of supreme concern. The young child who always lives in a permissive cocoon knows instinctively that he is not loved, that no one really cares.

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La Salette – A Moment of Grace

Untitled-1Editor: In 1996, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette, Fr. Isidro Perin, M.S., our then-Superior General, wrote his reflections on the message and meaning of the apparition. We share them with you since we La Salette religious and laity should heed his words of wisdom.

 

Soon we will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady at La Salette. We know that this event took place in 1846 on a mountain in the Alps of southern France. Appearing to two children, Maximin and Melanie, Mary speaks to them of the realities of their times. It was not a comfortable historic moment for many changes were in process: new philosophies proclaimed, new ways of organizing society being explored.

A Difficult Time in History

It was the beginning of the "age of reason" when many believed in reason's supremacy to the detriment of faith in God. At that very moment, Europe was experiencing famine as a result of a great drought: children dying, potatoes rotting, wheat spoiling. Mary spoke to Maximin and Melanie about these "signs" in the context of Gospel values. "In vain do people work if God does not bless it." Mary pointed out the way to atone for human sinfulness. It was a renewed call to conversion. Prayer, penance and respect for God would be concrete expressions of responding to this invitation.

Read more: La Salette – A Moment of Grace

If They Refuse to Submit

Untitled-1Mary said: “If my people refuse to submit, I will be forced to let go the arm of my Son.” In one and the same sentence she calls us sinners ("will not submit") as well as "my people." We can simultaneously be sinners and loved by God.

The discourse begins with the declaration that these people are "my people"... What is affirmed here is a mutual belonging. It is, by itself, an affectionate phrase. In spite of all the wrong they are doing, of all she has to reproach them, that they are still her people. The unstated fact in the message is that she is here, appearing on earth because we are, in fact, her people.

Disobedience to the will of God is the comprehensive, all encompassing evil they are guilty of. The rest of the message is an itemized list of violations of the law of the Lord. Submission here, of course, means submission to the will of God.

This will of God is always a factor in the existence of a Christian. It is always associated with his or her life. No part of the Christian faith has been more profoundly misunderstood than this truth, that God has a will for each one of us. God wants the people to do certain things and avoid others. But this is not the only point in question here.

What could go unnoticed, unheeded for a lifetime is the reason for the will of God. Is God pleased when we accomplish God's will? Is God pleased when we show the world that God is God, Lord and Master of all, by insisting that all beings perform God's will in all areas of life? Is this part of some divine hangup that will not allow God to rest until everything and everyone pays tribute to the Godhead?

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Great News

Untitled-1The Lady Appeared. So must the reconciler appear. Making an appearance, being seen, being present to people is part of the ministry of reconciliation. Human reconcilers cannot truly reconcile people, bring them back to God. God alone does that. They are only asked to be there and let people know, by word and deed that they are wanted, loved.

The Lady doesn't live on earth, but by appearing as she did on the mountain she implied that she belonged with and to her people. This temporary visibility is a witness to her constant presence to her people. Whoever would exercise reconciliation is called to presence. Jesus did not recruit his disciples in the synagogue on a solemn feast. He went where they lived and worked. Indeed, he came upon them for the first time and called them while they were at work:

As he was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea: they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of [people]...” He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them and immediately... they followed him (Mt. 4: 18-22).

Christ came upon them in the midst of their life, and on their ground. God always wants to be part of our daily existence. This is the life we live most of the time.

Our Lady of La Salette appeared to Maximin and Melanie in the rush of their own workaday occupation. They were shepherds doing their shepherd task-they had just finished rounding up their cows, and she appeared to them on their own turf. They worked on the summit of a mountain so she went to the mountain. The reconciler is part of people's daily lives, part of them. They may not know where the local church is and they may swear like parakeets but if the reconciler is present to them they know that God has not abandoned them.

Read more: Great News

Don't Be Afraid

Untitled-1A few years ago a survey revealed which emotion people experienced most often. A large number mentioned fear and anxiety. There is a lot of fear in the world and much of that fear is fear of God. Fear comes from the unknown and God is the Great Unknown. God is mysterious. People think of God as all-powerful and judge: an awesome combination. There is a just fear of God which is not abject cowering. The fear of God spoken of in the Scriptures is, for the most part respect, honor, reverence, deference.

People cannot “come closer”, cannot be reconciled in fear. Fear must go and it won't go easily. Many were born and raised in a straightjacket of fear about religion: a punishing God (“God will get you for this, you wait and see!”), events, natural phenomena, diseases, accidents became deeds right from the avenging hand of God. There is nothing quite like fear to alienate and persuade someone to keep a safe (!) distance from all that is “God.”

The reconciler's first task is to break fear. Manner, style, respectful familiarity with God and the things of God, reassurance about the certainty of reconciliation from a loving Father can do wonders to dispel apprehension.

Read more: Don't Be Afraid

Come Closer, My Children

Untitled-1The La Salette Reconciler remains close to the people and reaches out to all of them. He seeks out those who never appear at any function, who are far away, the alienated. He lets them know that they are desired, invited, wanted, not because they are prayerful, cultivated people, but because they are valuable in themselves.

The Lady gave a vivid example of this kind of seeking. Maximin and Melanie were the “ideal” unchurched people. As far as the Church and the world were concerned they lived in the black hole of oblivion. They were the alienated, people who were totally indifferent to the existence of God and Church. They were textbook examples of uninterested and uninteresting people – normally undesirable – practically useless in any church organization. They were invited not just to come around but to come near. They were summoned to intimacy.

The Lady chose Maximin and Melanie in order to tell the world that God loves and chooses people not by virtue of rank or accomplishment but in view of a special mission God has reserved for them. They were asked to belong. People love to be asked. They love to belong to something or someone greater than themselves. The Lady's first words corresponded to a very normal human desire — more than that – a craving to belong and to be used importantly and especially lovingly.

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Reconciliation – A Gem of a Charism

The famous New York diamond dealer, Harry Winston, heard about a wealthy Dutch merchant who was looking for a certain kind of diamond to add to his collection. Winston called the merchant, told him that he thought he had the perfect stone, and invited the collector to come to New York and examine it.

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Harry Winston (1896 – 1978) a
renowned jeweler who donated the
Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian
Institution after owning it for a decade.
The collector flew to New York and Winston assigned him a salesman to meet him and show him the diamond. When the salesman presented the diamond to the merchant he described the expensive stone by pointing out all of its fine technical features. The merchant listened and praised the stone but turned away and said: "It's a wonderful stone but not exactly what I want."

Winston, who had been watching the presentation from a distance, stopped the merchant going out the door and asked, "Do you mind if I show you that diamond once more?" The merchant agreed and Winston presented the stone. But instead of talking about the technical features of the stone, Winston spoke spontaneously about his own genuine admiration and what a rare thing of beauty it was. Abruptly, the customer changed his mind and bought the diamond.

While he was waiting for the diamond to be packaged and brought to him, the merchant turned to Winston and asked, "Why did I buy it from you when I had no difficulty saying no to your salesman?"

Winston replied, "That salesman is one of the best men in the business and he knows more about diamonds than I do. I pay him a good salary for what he knows. But I would gladly pay him twice as much if I could put into him something that I have and he lacks. You see, he knows diamonds, but I love them." (Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D., How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life, Berkeley, by arrangement with G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1989, pgs. 34-35)

That story illustrates one of the single greatest principles of persuasion: People are far more persuaded by the depths of your beliefs and emotions than any amount of logic or knowledge you possess.

Read more: Reconciliation – A Gem of a Charism

From the Holy Mountain

Editor: This article was originally written in 1966, just after the closing of the Second Vatican Council, for our La Salette publication, Reconciliare. Fr. Orset shares his faith and his vision of the place of Mary in the life of the La Salette Missionaries and in the life of the wider Church.

Standing on the mountain of La Salette,
you can see all the way to the Annunciation
and to a Hill called Calvary

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Fr. Sylvain-Marie Giraud,
M.S., a writer and noted
speaker on the
apparition of La Salette

Speaking before sixty of his priests and some 10,000 Christians from his diocese, during the centennial celebrations of La Salette, Msgr. Guyot, Bishop of Coutances, Normandy, had this to say: “La Salette is not a second-class Marian devotion, it is truly a great ecclesial devotion...” Having dwelt at some length on the various aspects of the message, the orator arrived at the conclusion previously reached by Fr. (Sylvain-Marie) Giraud (a writer and noted speaker on the apparition of La Salette): the distinctive note of La Salette is its ecclesial universality…

A definite spirit radiates from the Apparition and from all it entails. That spirit is a gift, a grace; it is primarily addressed to the People of God.

I (will first discuss)… the spirit of La Salette in the Church, as it relates to the People of God (taken in the conciliar sense of the word). Later on.. (I will) narrow the scope of our discussion to concentrate on men and women who have freely chosen to center their lives on God, accepting to be bound by vows and a given constitution. The Council proceeded in much the same way: first came the People of God, and then the hierarchy that serves it. Council deliberations on the universal vocation to holiness preceded the considerations on religious life.

When the Council attempted to draft its chapter on the Blessed Virgin, it ran into difficulties which we (La Salette) missionaries, working in the light of the Council, cannot afford to ignore if we intend to delineate for our own Congregation a genuinely ecclesial La Salette spirit, 100% church... Once again, Fr. Giraud is qualified to serve as our mentor.

Read more: From the Holy Mountain

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